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Russian Observers See Flynn's Exit as Setback for Trump White House

  • Victor Vladimirov

FILE - Michael Flynn, then-President-elect Donald Trump's selection for national security adviser, arrives at Trump Tower in New York, Dec. 12, 2016.

Russian experts weighed in Tuesday on the resignation of Michael Flynn as White House national security adviser and its potential impact on U.S.-Russian relations.

Boris Makarenko, chairman of the board of the Center for Political Technologies, a Moscow think tank, told VOA's Russian service that Flynn's resignation would negatively affect the reputation of President Donald Trump and his administration.

"It's his personal appointee who violated several written and unwritten rules of American politics," he said. "Above all, it is that Flynn in a public statement lied to his immediate supervisor, and thereby set him up."

Naturally, the new administration's detractors were carefully watching all of this, Makarenko said, adding that Flynn always had a very mixed reputation within the American establishment.

"Judging by what is written in the press, the resignation of the adviser of the president was not entirely voluntary," said Makarenko. "And when he made a mistake — call it what you will — he committed an impermissible deed, thus setting a record for the shortest stay in a high-level post in the White House."

Larger factors

Still, Makarenko said he thought the Russian-American dialogue depended to a much greater degree on the nations' top leaders, the long-term interests of both countries, and how these interests are interpreted by the top leadership, rather than on one specific person.

The head of the State Duma's international affairs committee, Leonid Slutsky, gave a similar assessment.

"Flynn's resignation cannot, in a global sense, affect relations between Russia and the United States, although all things considered, it looks negative," he said.

Alexander Domrin, an expert on U.S. affairs with Moscow's Higher School of Economics, told VOA that he thought Flynn's resignation would have elicited more of a response from the Russian media and expert community.

"When I saw the news in the morning, I thought that the response would be much wider," he said. "I fully expected, for example, that they would interrupt regular programming on Russian television [to discuss the Flynn resignation]. Thus far, I haven't seen any especially meaningful discussion."

President Vladimir Putin's press secretary, Dmitry Peskov, limited his statement on Flynn's resignation to saying that it was an "internal matter of the U.S. administration," adding that it was premature to speculate on what direction Russia's relations with the U.S. would take.

Domrin, who is also a lawyer, said the events surrounding Flynn's resignation raised many questions.

Questions on 'legal side'

"I would like to know how the bugging was set up," he said. "Then the question arises: How was the content of the phone conversations of Michael Flynn [with Russian Ambassador to the U.S. Sergei Kislyak] leaked to CNN? Who authorized the wiretap?"

"In short, I have more questions about the legal side of things than about the resignation itself," said Domrin.

"I still don't fully understand what happened," he added. "As for the resignation, it is unfortunate that it happened, because Flynn did not even work for one month in the post of adviser to the president on national security."

According to Domrin, the blow to the Trump administration from Flynn's resignation "is significantly more severe than all the [protest] speeches and marches" that have occurred across the country, he said. "It is, of course, a victory for the Democrats, who have a grudge against Trump. And it is a victory for the American media."

Domrin added: "If the resignation occurred because of contacts with the Russian ambassador, it is, of course, a very strong blow to the normalization of Russian-American relations."

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